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10 of the best UK exhibitions to visit this summer

16 July 2018

With summer in full swing so are the seasonal programmes at museums and galleries across the country. With everything from satirical cartoons to original Rembrandts, taxidermy geese and paintings inspired by the King of Pop on display, there’s plenty to intrigue art lovers.

Frida Kahlo in blue satin blouse, 1939 | Photograph Nickolas Muray © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives; Girl at a Window, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1645 | Collection: Dulwich Picture Library, London Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Interview Magazine, September 2009 by KAWS 2009 | Courtesy of KAWS

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style

Charles Rennie Mackintosh may have hit the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons, as his iconic Glasgow School of Art was devastated by fire for a second time, but 2018 also marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Glasgow architect, designer and artist.

The exhibition at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum spans Mackintosh’s lifetime (1868–1928), presenting his work in the context of the city, his key predecessors, influences and contemporaries, particularly those working in the Glasgow Style. Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the Glasgow Style includes works by artists known as The Four: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his future wife Margaret Macdonald, her younger sister Frances Macdonald and her future husband James Herbert McNair.

Over 250 items are on display, including stained glass, ceramics, furniture, mosaic, metalwork, stencilling, graphics, embroidery, books, interiors and architecture. Many of the works will be on display for the first time in a generation, while others will be given their first public appearance.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow, until 14 August 2018.

Pinks, Charles Rennie Mackintosh | © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Collections

250th Summer Exhibition

The Royal Academy of Arts is celebrating its 250th anniversary with a newly extended campus which houses a multitude of works in their ‘biggest and brightest’ summer exhibition yet, the 250th Summer Exhibition.

As the largest and oldest open submission art show in the world the exhibition features works by established names and exciting new talent. Coordinated by Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry it showcases ‘art made now’ and features over 1,300 artworks in an array of media, many of which are up for sale.

Visitors can enjoy Mike Nelson’s Charles Wollaston Award-winning sculpture, vast new works by David Hockney and Joana Vasconcelos, and a 'room of humour' featuring David Shrigley and Martin Parr, as well as pieces by Wolfgang Tillmans, Mike Nelson, Tracey Emin and Rose Wylie.

Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 19 August 2018.

Selfie with Political Causes, Grayson Perry | © The artist and Paragon/Contemporary Editions Ltd

50 Glorious Shows

As of February 2018 the Cartoon Museum has hosted 50 exhibitions at its home on Little Russell Street. 50 Glorious Shows is its 51st exhibition and features highlights from all the site’s previous shows as well as works acquired for the collection during that period.

On display are 170 original works by top cartoonists such as Hogarth, Heath Robinson and HM Bateman ,as well as comic artists and graphic novelists including Hunt Emerson, Dave Gibbons, Posy Simmonds and Bryan Talbot.

In honour of Britain's rich tradition of political satire, 50 Glorious Shows will feature selections from the museum’s Spitting Image, €urobollocks!, Bell Époque, Maggie! Maggie! Maggie!, Punch, Private Eye and Steadman@77 exhibitions.

Cartoon Museum, London, until 2 September 2018.

Polar bears | © Mike Williams

Idea of North

Part of Great Exhibition of the North, Idea of North at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art is a series of projects and guest-curated displays that celebrate the enduring resilience and transforming spirit of a northern identity through architecture, photography, music and design.

Among the projects on show at Idea of North is a new immersive installation by artists David Blandy and Larry Achiampong that combines footage of Hadrian’s Wall with computer gaming visuals to tell the story of a land that has isolated itself into near extinction. Women by Women explores the representation of women and girls in the North East across five decades, with all the images taken by female photographers.

You can also see Matt Stokes’ Real Arcadia, an installation exploring the little-known Cumbrian cave rave scene of the 1990s; previously unseen photographs depicting the underground music scene of Gateshead in the mid 1980s in Chris Killip’s The Station; and architectural feats of imagination recreated in collaboration with Ryder Architecture.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, until 30 September 2018.

Tynemouth, September 1978. From the series Writing in the Sand (1970s-90s) | © Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

The Marvellous Mechanical Museum

Compton Verney hope to reimagine the spectacular automata exhibitions of the 18th Century with their summer exhibition, The Marvellous Mechanical Museum. Artists, inventors and engineers collide and audiences are invited to explore the boundaries between what is lifelike and what is alive.

At its most basic, an automaton is a moving mechanical device that imitates a human being, traditionally made using clockwork. The exhibition features automata created across four centuries, from rare pieces dating back to the 17th Century to special new commissions by contemporary artists exploring our current and often complex relationship with technology.

As well as a series of inventive toys, including Rowland Emmet’s kinetic sculpture A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley (1984) featuring an elaborate train scene, there are darker pieces: Paul Spooner’s Demoiselles (2017) is made of female effigies from art history and Ting Tong Chang’s mechanical birds features a taxidermied, computer-programmed goose.

Compton Verney, Warwickshire, until 30 September 2018.

Les Demoiselles, Paul Spooner, 2017 | © Photography by Mike Halsey

Rembrandt – Britain’s Discovery of The Master

Rembrandt van Rijn was born in Leiden and spent his life in the Netherlands but his legacy inspired numerous British artists.

This new landmark exhibition as part of Edinburgh Art Festival combines works by the Dutch master as well as British artists he influenced such as William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Henry Raeburn, David Wilkie, Jacob Epstein, John Bellany and Frank Auerbach.

Rembrandt – Britain’s Discovery of The Master features work held in British collections: Belshazzar’s Feast from the National Gallery in London and Girl at the Window from Dulwich Picture Gallery both feature, as well as those housed overseas, including The Mill from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

The exclusive exhibition, which will only be shown in Edinburgh, reveals how the taste for Rembrandt’s work in Britain evolved over the past 400 years. From early beginnings around 1630, it grew into a mania that gripped collectors across the country, reaching a fever pitch in the late 18th Century.

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, until 14 October 2018

Girl at a Window, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1645 | Collection: Dulwich Picture Library, London Bourgeois Bequest, 1811

Michael Jackson: On the Wall

29 August 2018 would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday. To honour the singer the National Portrait Gallery have launched a major exhibition exploring his influence, not on music, choreography or fashion, but on some of the leading names in contemporary art.

Since his image was first used by artist Andy Warhol in 1982 the singer has been depicted in a huge array of artworks. Featuring work by 48 contemporary artists, the exhibition brings together pieces from private and public collections as well as special commissions that portray the King of Pop.

The controversies surrounding the singer’s family and personal life are avoided, with the focus kept on how his image has been used. Michael Jackson: On the Wall, a play on his 1979 album Off the Wall, includes numerous pieces by Andy Warhol, the last portrait Jackson commissioned of himself by American artist Kehinde Wiley, who recently painted an official portrait of Barack Obama, and a video artwork of German fans singing the entirety of the album Thriller.

National Portrait Gallery, London, until 21 October 2018.

An Illuminating Path by David LaChapelle, 1998 | Courtesy of the artist © David LaChapelle

Liverpool Biennial

The 10th edition of the Liverpool Biennial is titled Beautiful world, where are you? and invites artists and audiences to reflect on social, political and economic turmoil across the world. It is also part of Liverpool 2018, a year-long programme that showcases the city's culture a decade on from its year as European Capital of Culture.

Over 40 artists from 22 countries are presenting work in public spaces, art venues and civic buildings. Highlights include a body of artworks dealing with issues of power, authority and social justice held in former prison cells and courtroom at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall, the UK debut of Oscar-winning French filmmaker Agnès Varda, work dealing with the legacies of colonialism at the Tate, and Mohamed Bourouissa’s new garden, created with locals and conceived as a space of ‘resilience’.

Visitors can also enjoy previous commissions for the Liverpool Biennial across the city, including Betty Woodman’s Liverpool Fountain, Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry and Evertro, the UK's first glow-in-the-dark wheels park, created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong.

Various venues, Liverpool, until 28 October 2018.

Sir Peter Blake, Everybody Razzle Dazzle, 2015 | Photo: Mark McNulty

Phil Collins: This Is The Day

This major exhibition across all three of the MAC’s galleries brings together a series of recent projects by filmmaker and visual artist Phil Collins.

The film Ceremony - commissioned in 2017 by Manchester International Festival, HOME, Manchester, and 14–18 NOW to coincide with the centenary of the Russian Revolution - follows Collins’ search for and retrieval of a decommissioned statue of Engels from an Ukrainian village and its journey to Manchester, where it was permanently installed in the city centre as part of the closing event for the festival.

Large-scale installation Delete Beach is an anime which tells a story set in the future of a schoolgirl who joins an anti-capitalist resistance group in a society in which carbon-based energy is outlawed.

The final element of This Is The Day is the meaning of style, which explores ways in which subcultures circulate between different historical, ethnic, and social contexts, with a film featuring a group of anti-fascist Malay skinheads.

MAC, Belfast, until 28 October 2018.

The Engels statue is now permanently installed in Manchester City Centre | Photo: Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up

Following her death in 1954 Frida Kahlo’s husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, sealed her possessions inside their home, the Blue House. Fifty years later her clothes and personal items were removed and Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is the first exhibition outside of her native Mexico to display them.

The exhibition focuses on how the iconic artist fashioned her identity. It features over 200 items including her clothes, jewellery, cosmetics and letters, as well as portraits by photographer Nickolas Muray which show her wearing many of the clothes on display

After she was seriously injured in a bus crash aged 18 Kahlo empowered herself through her art and dress. Rendered bed-bound and immobilised for protracted periods of time she often painted self-portraits using a mirror inset into the canopy of the bed. The exhibition features a number of her aids, from spine back braces and corsets she painted with religious and communist symbols, as well as her red-booted prosthetic leg, alongside her powerful self-portraits.

V&A London, until 4 November 2018.

Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, 1939 | Photo: Nickolas Muray, Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

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